Second Gear Enough to Move Everton Past Struggling Canaries

Lyndon Lloyd 25/09/2021 30comments  |  Jump to last
Everton 2 - 0 Norwich City

When you consider that Everton had lost two of their three home games last season to newly-promoted sides on the way to losing nine at Goodison Park overall and were beaten pretty soundly by Norwich in the waning days of Marco Silva’s tenure two years ago, nothing is a given in the Premier League.

And given the key absentees from Rafael Benitez’s squad and the fact that the Blues were coming into this match on the back of two potentially demoralising defeats, the result today really was all that mattered. It’s a good thing, really, because while this was a solid enough home performance, it was short on entertainment and the hosts were fortunate, given their somewhat fatigued state, that they were facing such a poor side.

Norwich had lost 15 straight top-flight matches before today and they never really looked capable of winning, although there were a couple of moments midway through the second half where they might have made things very uneasy for Everton with an equaliser. Of course, such adversity had drawn the best from the Toffees at Goodison Park in their first two home fixtures; today, they did enough to get the job done in professional fashion without needing to move out of second gear to keep themselves up among the leaders.

Once again Andros Townsend was on the scoresheet as he bagged his fourth goal since arriving on a free transfer from Crystal Palace, Demarai Gray underscored what an astute acquisition he also was as the main danger-man up front, while Abdoulaye Doucouré’s power and tenacity in the middle — not to mention a well-taken goal that secured the points — was a key factor behind the victory.

Less impressive – understandably, perhaps – was Salomon Rondon who will be hoping that this latest runout will take him another step forward to soon being able to offer some threat in attack. The Venezuelan remains well short of fitness but he slogged his way through his first 90-minute game for the club without managing a shot on goal which will be a concern for next weekend’s trip to Old Trafford if, as expected, neither Richarlison nor Dominic Calvert-Lewin make it.

In that sense, while Ellis Simms was overlooked at Loftus Road on Tuesday, it was pleasing nevertheless to see young Lewis Dobbin come off the bench for his senior debut for the last few minutes. While a different profile of player to Rondon, the teenager did not look out of place at all on the big stage and it will be good to see him get a few more appearances in the weeks to come.

Everton generally lacked imagination going forward for much of the first half of this contest but they had their first real chance in the 19th minute when Doucouré got a rare opportunity to drive forward and when Gray dummied the otherwise disappointing Alex Iwobi's cross, Townsend was there at the other side of the area but his weak shot was easily saved by Tim Krul.

A couple of minutes later, Gray beat his man smartly to swing a teasing ball across goal but there were no takers in the middle before Allan drew the foul that would hand Townsend the chance to put the hosts ahead from the spot. The Brazilian knocked the ball past Ozan Kabak and was caught late by the defender, prompting howls for a penalty from the Everton players, claims that were eventually upheld by referee David Coote following a lengthy check by Video Assistant Referee, Lee Mason, and a trip of his own to the pitch-side monitor to make sure.

Townsend made no mistake with an emphatic conversion from 12 yards but it wasn't to spark a deluge of goals from Everton who remained fairly subdued to the end of the first period when Pickford was forced into his first save of the game as he pushed Normann's low drive behind following the away side's first spell of pressure.

A great turn by Townsend early in the second half allowed him to advance into the area and fire a low shot that just missed the near post while at the other end Pickford had to palm another impressive effort from Normann over and Ben Gibson missed a free header when he failed to make contact on a dangerous Norwich free-kick.

The Canaries were growing in confidence and Normann had an opportunity to test Pickford once more with a direct free-kick after Rondon had been adjudged to have fouled him in a dangerous area but he sailed his shot over.

Ultimately, Norwich's lack of cutting edge up front and Yerry Mina’s dominance at the back meant that Everton were largely untroubled despite sitting back a little too much for the Goodison crowd's liking and the Blues' superior quality told 13 minutes from the end of the regulation 90.

It was another illustration of how deadly this current Everton side can be in transition as they pounced on an opening and capitalised on Dooucouré’s new-found threat in the opposition box.

Allan picked up a loose ball near the centre-circle in the Norwich half and found Gray who threaded it to Doucouré to take a touch and then lash a shot back across Krul to make it 2-0.

Tom Davies came on for Gray in the 83rd minute and had an attempt with the outside of his boot deflected behind and from that corner, Godfrey almost plundered his first Everton goal. The defender met the ball as it dropped inside the six-yard box but Krul made himself big and denied him.

With another three points collected at home, Everton continue to do under Benitez what they proved incapable of doing with any consistency under Carlo Ancelotti and that is win the matches they are expected to at Goodison Park. There was very little that was spectacular about a game that was pretty boring at times but the win was paramount and it means that the Blues remain in the top six despite being without some very important players.

Credit, therefore, goes to four players who have formed a vital core of the Blues first XI so far — Townsend, Gray, Allan and Doucouré — a quartet that more than compensated for Rondon’s lack of effectiveness with their tireless work-rate and who will again be vital against Manchester United next Saturday. That will, of course, be a very different kind of game but in what promised to be a long campaign, it’s the collection of points in the more routine games like this one that will be important in the final reckoning.


Reader Comments (30)

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Bogdan Kotarlic
1 Posted 25/09/2021 at 20:21:36

A routine win for Everton. Which match should we win if not against Norwich? There are only six games played this season but the Canaries seem to be already doomed.

I am satisfied with 13 points from six games, a very good beginning of the season although our performances are not so convincing. Still, when we have back all our important players we could really play some good football.

Doucouré and Townsend played very well and not just because they scored goals. It is Doucouré`s second this season, I hope he scores at least five or six till the end of the campaign.

Next is Manchester United away, that is a really tough task but we could gain something from that match, United are probably shaken after today`s loss.

Barry Hesketh
2 Posted 25/09/2021 at 20:32:24
Just one quibble with your report, Lyndon, but having seen the highlights, Coote initially awarded a goal-kick until VAR requested he looked at it again.
Martin Mason
3 Posted 25/09/2021 at 20:43:30
First time in 32 years that Everton have won the first 3 home games in a season. It was never going to be nice but a good win with Rondon never going to trouble 3 centre-halves. How has he managed to get so unfit though? Sublime Gray, how did everybody miss him except us? His fee was 6 weeks of James's wages.
Danny O’Neill
4 Posted 25/09/2021 at 20:56:37
With my thoughts still raw in the mind, Lyndon, I'd say that's a fair assessment. Especially about the quartet you call out (Gray, Townsend, Doucouré & Allan). The second goal epitomised it. Hunting & pressure from Allan to win & recycle the ball. Gave it to Gray who subsequently fed Doucoure to execute a classic drilled shot across the goal. A bright moment too in an otherwise average encounter to seal the game.

Concern; as much as I like him, Allan was hanging after various scenarios like that and whilst obviously crediting his hard work, he was literally hands on knees afterwards on a few occasions later on.

Worried about him having the legs for a full season, but I guess that should be no surprise.

Lyndon Lloyd
5 Posted 25/09/2021 at 21:41:22
Right you are, Barry. I’d remembered it incorrectly but have amended the report accordingly, thanks.
Ray Mutch
6 Posted 26/09/2021 at 07:39:20
For the United game, we should put Godfrey at left-back. I think Digne has been going through a long non-productive and unreliable period. Just my opinion.
Phil (Kelsall) Roberts
7 Posted 26/09/2021 at 08:00:14
Biggest shock of the day?

We got a VAR decision - - - - and from Lee Mason of all people.

Paul Smith
8 Posted 26/09/2021 at 09:37:42
Nice to win and we look much fitter.

One thing about the penalty: I was surprised it was given. I thought the ball had gone and Allan was already going over when contact was made. Well converted by Andros and a good assist by Damarai. Cracking additions both of them.

Danny O’Neill
9 Posted 26/09/2021 at 09:44:48
I thought it was a penalty at the time, Paul, even though I was down the other end, so it was a distant view.

Watched it on Match of the Day this morning and for me (even the non-Evertonian in me), that's a penalty every time.

I'm not one for this "he wasn't getting there anyway". That's a Carragher argument. Fact is, he got kicked on the thigh after the ball had gone. That's a high and late challenge. A high and late challenge is a foul. A foul in the box is a penalty.

Allan used his experience to get the decision. There is a difference between that and diving. He felt the contact (there was contact) and made sure he (eventually) got the decision.

I agree with you. Despite the pre-season scepticism and being underwhelmed, both Townsend and Gray are proving astute additions. And the Demarai Gray song is great!!

Derek Thomas
10 Posted 26/09/2021 at 10:18:57
We won in 2nd gear; great, good job - as I doubt we had a 3rd. But if we can keep the effort up, what skill we do have avaliable at the moment will be enough - most weeks.
Is next week one of those weeks? I hope so.
Jerome Shields
11 Posted 26/09/2021 at 10:20:18
Lyndon, you are right that Everton at last have a core of the quartet you mention. The season will be determined by keeping this core going and having replacements.

On watching the highlights, I thought that Mina had a good game and Keane was reasonable. Godfrey is off the pace, but is still going through rehabilitation, and Digne is below par and has been since the start of the season.

Iowbi's strength is that he is like a bad penny, selection-wise. It is a bit of a conundrum what his best position is. No wonder Ancelotti had a puzzled look on his face when asked to comment on Iowbi, saying he was not being played in his best position. Iowbi looks okay going forward but, when he gets into the final third, he is like a wondering Angus. Benitez seems to have accepted this playing him on the left wing, where he seems to want to come inside onto his right foot. He rarely beats his man and tries to get a left-footed cross in.

Maybe that wing would be more productive if Digne could get back to the highs of providing an overlap and a pin-point cross, with stats that (under Silva) where the highest in the Premier League.

Rondon is unfit, but is very positionally aware and is neat in his play in the final third. Only by gaining match time will he get there. Good to see Rafa try to integrate youth into the team.

Tony Everan
12 Posted 26/09/2021 at 10:54:28
Doucoure is a shining light this season, a class player. He has proven that with a bit more license to get forward he can deliver the goods. We need to exploit this as best we can.

To do it I think we need Davies or who knows ! Gbamin, alongside Allan which will give more bite and security to the central infield and allow more freedom for Doucoure to get forward without leaving us exposed. It is the role that Gbamin was bought for that will strengthen our midfield. Gomes has his attributes but is too slow for the role, Iwobi is more of a wide player who cuts inside and not defensively minded.

Karl Meighan
13 Posted 26/09/2021 at 11:02:56
I have to wonder how the ref missed the penalty but after looking at the pitchside monitor for 2 seconds then gave it, also surely the var ref has to tell the ref to overturn his decision without the need to look at the monitor. Lazy challenge above the knee kicking Allan around the thigh area, cannot see why it took so long.

Harder tests to come but keep hearing its a results business and having little chance to bring in players during the transfer window we have started well lets keep grinding results out. Clean sheets and being hard to play against is the way forward and improving as the season progresses.

Jerome Shields
14 Posted 26/09/2021 at 11:11:10
Most say it's an impressive start to the season in the Premier League. I got the impression the Carabao Cup was secondary this season from the start. It has been useful providing a rebound at the right time.

At least Everton are a work and effort team. It will be interesting to see how they fare against Man Utd.

Jim Harrison
15 Posted 26/09/2021 at 11:11:12
We can diss Carlo a lot for his time at Everton, but he was right on Allan, the guy is a perfect fit for us.

Imagine if we had managed to get Doucouré when we first wanted him? Another player perfectly suited to the club.

Kevin Molloy
16 Posted 26/09/2021 at 11:18:07
Our front 6, when fit, is starting to look pretty terrific.

Just a shame about the back 4...

Fran Mitchell
17 Posted 26/09/2021 at 11:23:46
Didn't watch this one and it appears I didn't miss much.

Clearly missing key players, but I fear we're gonna struggle as the long slog of the season progresses.

So it's good to see us level on points with the 'big teams', but our limitations were severely exposed in the one game we played against a top-half team.

Next week's game at Man Utd will be a huge challenge for us and hopefully we don't crumble.

Rondon as reserve to Calvert-Lewin is a sad state of affairs. Yes, Calvert-Lewin is big and strong, but that is where the comparison ends. Calvert-Lewin has fantastic pace and movement, excellent anticipation, and work rate. Rondon is just a lump, he's suitable to a team intent on playing Wimbledon football and that alone he's okay to have on the bench and bring on with 10 minutes and revert to Route 1 tactics. Beyond that, he is pretty useless.

Iwobi is never going to improve, he is what he is, there's no hidden potential waiting to come to the fore. I'd rather we invested more time in Gordon and seeing if he can step up.

Darren Hind
18 Posted 26/09/2021 at 11:50:47
It was absolutely a penalty. It was a ridiculous thigh-high challenge.

Allan did everything right. Got the nick to take it past the defender and went down on contact.

Doesn't matter if he was catching it or not. It's not his fault that such a stupid challenge got the punishment it deserved.

Mal van Schaick
19 Posted 26/09/2021 at 12:17:12
Good result, and this is what Everton should be doing, despatching low-quality teams with ease, especially at home.

With some good team bonding to get us through recent injury problems with key players, let's hope that we can grind out results with better-quality teams.

Tom Bowers
20 Posted 26/09/2021 at 12:35:49
No doubt about the penalty. Anyone who says different doesn't know football. Ref didn't have a clear view – but he did on VAR.
Brian Harrison
21 Posted 26/09/2021 at 12:44:03
Good result and a good start to the season. How we got Demarai Gray for £1.7 million is quite astonishing, so well done, Benitez, a brilliant piece of business.

Also, Townsend is a whole-hearted player, he may not have the skill set of Gray but delivers excellent crosses and can score from well outside the box – a long time since we have had someone who can do that.

So far, we have put together 20- to 25-minute spells of good football but haven't managed to do that for a full 45 minutes, but we have also been without Richarlison and Calvert-Lewin for a few games, which doesn't help.

I think anyone at the game will have been impressed with Doucouré and Allan. There is no question Doucouré looks very effective when running with the ball and we need to create more opportunities for him to do that.

I thought Allan was again back to his best after a below-average game against Villa. I think it's worth remembering this is only the start of his 2nd season in the Premier League playing in the most demanding position on the field, there is nowhere to hide in midfield. His covering and tackling and positional play is excellent. He won a penalty yesterday and that follows his 2 assists against Burnley, and he and Doucouré seem to be building up a good understanding.

I have to say I am very disappointed with Godfrey this season, he looks nothing like the player from last season. I know he did have Covid and maybe it is still affecting him, but he looked lethargic and hardly troubled Norwich going forward.

I am also getting a little concerned at how easily players are going past Digne; every game this season, he has been left for dead at times.

I have said for a long time, Mina and Keane are the best centre-back pairing and they seem comfortable with each other, which doesn't happen when either have been paired with Holgate or Godfrey. I know many on T/W critisize Keane for his lack of pace but yesterday, he sprinted 35 yards with an attacker and won the ball.

The only downside for me was first Iwobi just hasn't got it, he has played under different managers and played in different positions but he has been found wanting wherever he has played.

I was also surprised Benitez left Rondon on till the end, in the 2nd half he was no more than nuisance value.

Let's hope Richarlison and Calvert-Lewin are back soon so Rondon can work on his fitness and not have to use matches to get fit.

Graham Lloyd
22 Posted 26/09/2021 at 12:44:53
A good 3 points despite an average performamce against a poor team. Doucouré is becoming a really great player for us and, for once in a long while, our midfield looks reasonable with a balance of grit and pace. Job done.
Ajay Gopal
23 Posted 26/09/2021 at 12:45:30
For me, the positives (apart from the victory and a clean sheet) were the cameos by Anthony Gordon and Lewis Dobbin. These kids clearly relished the opportunity given them, and they will be richer for the experience.

I thought Keane looked very uncertain and seems lacking in confidence. We need Digne, Godfrey, Rondon and Pickford at their strongest and fittest for the Man Utd game. If we can nick a result there, then we can go into the break knowing that Dominic, Seamus and Richarlison will be back well-rested and hopefully recovered for the winter months.

A couple of decent additions to the squad including a right-back and a midfielder in the January transfer window and we may have a decent finish to the season.

Michael Burke
24 Posted 26/09/2021 at 19:55:56
Could someone who watched the game pass judgement on Max Aarons as a potential right-back for us? I saw him vs Newcastle and Norwich completely under-utilised his skill-set.
Ian Bennett
25 Posted 26/09/2021 at 20:11:33
He ain't a £30M right-back, Michael. He played as a wing back and wasn't really in the game for me.

He has got pace and did go past Digne once, but other than that, nothing. If he was £15M, you'd probably take the gamble. But no-one is going to take him for £30M.

Dowell was an unused sub. Norwich are poor, and he's not getting a look in.

Andy Crooks
26 Posted 26/09/2021 at 20:18:20
Michael, he looks like a very decent player. I was surprised at how stocky he is. I would like him to be playing for us.

Norwich are as bad as any team I have ever seen in the Premier League. I really cannot see them getting a single point away from home. I thought we were okay.


Andy Crooks
27 Posted 26/09/2021 at 20:25:46
Ian, good point. However, whether he is a £30 million or £15 million player doesn't matter. I gave up fretting about money after we signed Bilyaletdinov.
Rob Dolby
28 Posted 26/09/2021 at 21:23:38
This could have been a real banana skin of a game. Despite our injury problems, we eased past a very average Norwich.

Doucouré was my MotM, closely followed by Townsend.

Rondon looks like he will take a few weeks to get anywhere near match fitness. He looks miles off it at present. Dobbin or Simms can't be far away from pushing him out of the team.

I wouldn't bother wasting money on Aarons. Go and get whoever is playing right-back for Brugges or another unfashionable Champions League team and save a few bob.

Chris Locke
29 Posted 27/09/2021 at 08:19:44
After watching the game, I did a quick search on the odds for Norwich not to win a Premier League game all season. Skybet are offering 200-1!! I'm no gambler but that seemed good odds considering how terrible Norwich are.
Bill Hawker
30 Posted 27/09/2021 at 15:57:14
I can't help but feel like that victory papered over some cracks in the squad, namely squad depth. We certainly need a few more players for cover in certain positions.

Hopefully getting Rodriguez off the books will help in January. Is there anything we can do early on Gylfi's contract or is that going to be paid out regardless for a player that won't play?


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